A transgender woman is suing a gym in El Cajon, California over their use of gender-specific locker rooms.
Christynne Wood, 61, began taking water aerobics class at Crunch Fitness 11 years ago. These classes helped her lose weight and also come to terms with her true identity.
“I lived so many years presenting myself as a male. Because I knew that is what was expected of me, and I didn’t want to make others uncomfortable. The whole time, Christynne is inside Christopher going “I’m suffocating, please don’t let me die,’” Wood said.
Wood identified as female since childhood, but only started to medically transition in July of 2016. Just two months after she began her hormone regimen, Wood claims she was harassed by a male gym member.
‘The individual comes over to me, and says something untoward, and make a threatening gesture and walks in my direction,’ Wood recalls.
After this incident, Wood ran out of the men’s locker room and alerted management of the situation.
At first, staff members took Wood to the upstairs men’s room where there were fewer members. Still, Wood says the harassment continued.
‘I still must transit through the place where the assault took place to get to and from the pool for my workouts, so what have you done for me?’
A few days later, Wood brought in a letter from her endocrinologist explaining her situation and asking the gym to accommodate her by allowing her to use the women’s facilities.
In February 2017, Wood legally changed her name and gender. Still, she says it took seven months for gym management to finally allow her to use the women’s locker room.
‘I thought I had friends in management that so totally understood me. When that was betrayed, how would you feel?’
This neglect for her well being led to Wood’s decision to sue the gym.
‘It makes me cry that it had to get to this degree,’ Wood said. ‘Nobody wants to sue anyone. Nobody does anything or pays attention until somebody hurts or inconveniences them and then they realize the magnitude and depth of what they’ve done wrong.’
More than just her
For Wood, this civil case is bigger than just her situation.
‘I’m getting some form of justice, but it’s not just about me. There’s a whole sisterhood out there is being abused and marginalized. I don’t ever want this to happen to any of my T-girl [Transgender-girl] sisters,’ she said.
The ACLU and Crunch’s response
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) announced their intent to join the lawsuit on 2 May.
‘California law makes clear that every person has the right to use facilities appropriate to their gender identity,’ said Amanda Goad, a senior staff attorney with the ACLU in Southern California.
‘No one should have to endure the discrimination, harassment, and humiliation that Christynne experienced because of Crunch’s failure to follow the law and educate its employees about respect for transgender people.’
After this announcement, Crunch Fitness provided the following statement to ABC 10 News:
‘Our philosophy at Crunch is “no judgments,” and we promote positive body image and self-esteem in a fun atmosphere. All of our gyms are committed to creating a safe and welcoming environment for all members. The club from which the complaint arose is an independently owned and operated franchise and we cannot speak to the circumstance of the allegations.’
This is not the first time a gym chain has been sued due to the issue of locker rooms when it comes to trans people. Back in 2015, a woman sued Planet Fitness after seeing a trans woman using the women’s changing facilities. That case was dismissed by Michigan’s Midland County Circuit Court in 2016.